Monday, November 28, 2011

A Very Voltaggio (and Korean-Brazilian-American) Thanksgiving

I hope everyone's Thanksgiving was bomb-diggity, because my family's was. I enjoyed Thanksgiving with a large group of extended family that probably hasn't gotten together for at least ten years. Despite the time lapse, we all spent some quality time catching up, sharing laughs, and eating food. A lot of food.

If you're interested in the prep at all, there it is. Unlike last year, I got through the day without any mishaps. But also unlike last year, once family started arriving, I had to make some last minute adjustments to several of the recipes in the interest of time and having good conversations.

The eventual menu of the night. The hyperlinked recipes are the ones I made for this twenty-two person gathering and next to those are the numbers I multiplied the recipes by. And one more thing before we get started: Thanks, Bryan & Michael Voltaggio, for helping to make my Thanksgiving all the more memorable.

Biscuits (by Alton Brown)
Pork & Turkey Stuffing (by Alton Brown)
Homemade Kimchi
Brazilian Pork
Brazilian Salsa
Feijoada (did I mention a good chunk of my relatives are Brazilian-Korean?)
Corn Casserole
Pine Nut Salad
Asparagus and Mushroom Salad
Assorted Fruits and Veggies
Homemade Sweet Potato Pie
Homemade Pumpkin Pie
Trader Joe's Pumpkin Pie
Liquid Cheesecake x4 (by Christina Tosi)
Assorted Wine
Crown Royal
Chivas Regal
Johnnie Walker Blue Label (I guess it's not a Korean gathering without some super light beer and fancy pants whiskey/scotch)
Juices and Sodas
Shik-Hae (Korean sweet rice drink)

I've always wondered what it would be like to have an international buffet at home. This is just one of four tables that were filled with food. So um, yes. We feasted.

The Roasted Butternut Squash Soup with Spicy Seeds is the only dish I had made before Thanksgiving. The picture here is actually from when I made the soup about a month ago. That time I used honey crisp apples instead of green apples, and this time, I actually had to pass on the apple altogether. I have to say, the apple brings in a ton of flavor, so if you do this recipe, do it with the apple matchsticks, but if you don't get around to it, don't fret. The soup is awesome on its own: hearty, creamy, and a little tangy from the apple cider. The cayenne-and-cinnamon-dusted butternut squash seeds add just the right amount of kick and festive flavor to the dish and the cilantro adds an unexpected breath of fresh air. If you're looking for a squash soup this holiday season, definitely give this one a shot.

The Caramelized Brussel Sprouts with Sherry-Dijon Vinaigrette were delicious. I didn't have as much time to prepare this one because people started arriving to the house, but the end result was still good. I had to forego the more desirable browning of the brussel sprouts, and I had to pass on the use of apples. I know they would have added a ton of flavor to this dish, but the brussel sprouts, bacon, and onion combination with the sharp flavors of the sherry-dijon vinaigrette really held their own. I'm definitely going to retry this one soon.

The Traditional Roasted Turkeys came out looking awesome. Slightly charred in all the right places, and beautifully browned. The pan was flooded with delicious drippings and the aromatic brine filled the house with thanks (Note on the brine: Because the market didn't have chicken wings, I used turkey wings instead).

The dark meat gushed with flavor and juices. The leg was perfectly tender and well-cooked after spending three hours in the oven.

As I carved out the rest of the turkey, I smiled at the fact that, less than a year ago, I knew nothing about roasting and carving poultry. Thank you, chickens #1 through #19 (I know I haven't posted them all just yet, but only five more to go).

The breast meat, like most large turkeys, was a little bit dry, but that's nothing a good dunk in cranberry sauce, pan drippings, or gravy can't fix. Most importantly, the classic flavor of a roast turkey shone through each bite.

The Cranberry-Orange Compote was insanely delicious. Rich, sweet, and just warm enough to complement the turkey and the stuffing. The bits of orange rinds added tons of flavor, and each spoonful was infused with strong aromatics like cinnamon, star anise, and allspice berries. Even though this was really good, I probably could have made about half the batch I did.

No worries, though. The rest is going to make a perfect mixer for a cool glass of club soda or tonic water. Maybe a cocktail in the works?

There was no false advertisement with the Classic Gravy. I used guar gum instead of cornstarch for this recipe, only because I wanted to cut out carbs where I could, and I had to use turkey wings instead of chicken wings because there weren't any at the market. Despite the changes, the hearty, rich flavor of turkey giblets and turkey stock made for a great accompaniment to every starch on my plate. The minced chives added a nice amount of brightness to the gravy. The gravy probably could have been a little bit thicker, but I think the flavor made any lack of thickness negligible.

Like the gravy, the Traditional Mashed Potatoes were flawless in flavor. Rich, buttery, creamy, and starchy. Just what the holidays call for. The chives had a similar effect of slightly lightening up the dish, and like the gravy, the mashed potatoes were a little thin. I added in a little bit of guar gum to thicken it up a little. The olive oil drizzle was an excellent way to bring a familiar flavor to an extremely traditional dish. So, so good.

The Vanilla Scented Sweet Potato Puree was exactly that, and resultantly, incredibly addictive. The silky, creamy sweet potato puree melted in my mouth with each bite, and the replacement of marshmallows with scraped vanilla beans was genius. The sweetness was balanced out with salt and pepper, even though I only used about half the salt called for in the recipe.

The Liquid Cheesecake was everything it promised to be: Cheesecake in liquid form. Sweet, cheesy, and creamy with a texture akin to a delicious cheesecake after it's been in your mouth for a minute. The sweetness of this dessert went really well with the salty savoriness of the sweet potato pie and flavorful and spicy pumpkin pie my relative baked.

Everyone, spanning four generations, looked like they were enjoying all the food. I mean, really, with that much food out, how could you not enjoy at least a plateful. Of course my dad threw up a peace sign.

And of course, a Korean night of heavy eating and mixing alcohol inevitably ends with karaoke. Plenty of karaoke.

As everyone left completely full and happy, I realized I hadn't taken out the cheesecake, mainly because everyone had already had a ton of other delicious desserts. So when it got down to just my parents, my brother, his three friends, and I, we cracked open the Caramelized White Chocolate and Pumpkin Cheesecake. We forewent the caramelized oranges in the recipe and just threw on a dollop of the cinnamon creme fraiche and caramelized white chocolate on the side. I passed the plates to everyone during a casual conversation and


went through my head at first bite. My second thought was, "Oh my eff, the second bite is even better." My third thought was, "Dang, I don't want to sound cocky, but that's pretty freaking fantastic for something that came from someone who's never made a cheesecake before." My fourth thought was, "Relax, you idiot. It's because it's a Voltaggio recipe. You were just following directions." My fifth thought was, "Where did my piece of cheesecake go? Oh, I ate it all already."

Though I didn't get to share this awesome cheesecake with my extended family, I did get to share it with many more friends in the days after Thanksgiving, and I have to say that this cheesecake has gotten tons of compliments. If you have a pressure cooker and a good chunk of time, please, please, please make this recipe. This needs to be experienced by more people: A wonderfully creamy consistency; a beautiful, buttery, graham cracker crust; a creamy, salted-caramel-like flavor that transforms into the classic flavor of white chocolate; the hearty, autumnal flavors of butternut squash, nutmeg, cinnamon, and cloves; a savory kick of irresistible Indian spices; and a necessary, tempered tang from the cinnamon creme fraiche.

As the clock hit midnight, the last of us retired and went to bed with pregnant stomachs. And even though I was dead tired, all I could do was excitedly think about what to cook next year.

For now, however, more leftovers. Yes, I know it's four days after Thanksgiving. And yes, my mom is currently chopping up the brussel sprouts dish to put into a kimchi fried rice.


  1. aw man i can't believe i missed out on cheesecake!!! at least the leftover stuffing and gravy was tasty haha

  2. I'll make it for you some time! I have to repay you at some point for all the macarons I've stolen from you.


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